Latest news and thinking from the engage team

by Mike Anthony on 17th May 2017

A few weeks ago, I was visiting some stores in St. Petersburg, Russia. As I walked around the store, I noticed an interesting packaging execution in the whisky aisle. White Horse had created three pack variations which, when merchandised next to each other, created brilliant brand impression. I thought it looked good, snapped a picture, […]

Pre Evaluation of In-store Activity – Allowing for Imperfection

A few weeks ago, I was visiting some stores in St. Petersburg, Russia. As I walked around the store, I noticed an interesting packaging execution in the whisky aisle. White Horse had created three pack variations which, when merchandised next to each other, created brilliant brand impression. I thought it looked good, snapped a picture, and shared it over Linked In and my Twitter feed. It attracted loads and loads of comments. Many liked it, but many didn’t. I was a little surprised by how strongly some took against the execution. And they all took exception for the same reason: it would not be possible to execute it perfectly in all stores. This got me thinking about the fact that perfect execution is a challenge in most circumstances. Given that imperfect execution is a reality, should that be a barrier to moving forward, and how should we allow for imperfect execution when we conduct activity pre evaluations?

First sight activity pre evaluation – A simple idea to drive brand visibility in store

So before we go much further – let’s take a look at the example. As you can see in the image, it is perfectly presented in this store, and creates fabulous cut-through. This simple execution requires a low-cost redesign (all the key graphics are the same) improves brand visibility, and maybe creates an opportunity to grab a little extra space (most other brands only have two facings, at least in this store).

activity evaluation in-store execution packaging




Second thoughts activity pre evaluation – It might not go to plan!

In this store, it looks great, but let’s acknowledge that there may be stores where it doesn’t. There may be stores where there isn’t space for three facings. Merchandiser discipline needs to be considered, as well as shoppers picking up the product and putting it back. But wait. What you can’t see is that on the other sides of the box, there is the traditional ‘single-facing’ execution. So even if the product is merchandised facing the wrong way – there is still a good chance of brand visibility.

If we killed every idea that couldn’t be executed perfectly, most of us would be out of a job

Can you guarantee that every off-shelf or gondola display is going to be executed perfectly, always fully stocked and in place for the duration of the activity?

Can you guarantee that every shelf talker or wobbler will be positioned in-store correctly?

How often have you been to a store and seen packs merchandised badly, facing back to front, for example? Most packaging has a front and a back and so most packaging runs the very real risk of not being perfectly executed. If we only executed activities where we could guarantee perfect execution – well we probably wouldn’t do much!

So the big activity evaluation question shouldn’t be about whether execution can be perfect, but whether it is likely to have better, or poorer execution than the alternative (in this case, standard, ‘single side’ packaging?) And more importantly, what will be the relative impact of both perfect, and imperfect execution, on the shoppers that encounter it?

Activity evaluation must focus on impact, and ability to deliver the objective.

As we pre evaluate activity we need to consider more than this. Judging execution based on its aesthetic merit or whether it will be consistently executed is an overly simplistic way of looking at the situation. If we accept that the execution will not always be perfect, then a better analysis is to consider the impact of BOTH executions. How will ‘perfect’ execution impact target shopper behavior? How will ‘imperfect’ execution impact shopping behavior. Clearly if the negative impact of imperfect execution is greater than the positive impact of perfect execution, then this idea is a dud! But if there is a positive ROI even after allowing for any negative impact, then it still might be worth doing – and might certainly be better than nothing.

At the heart of any in-store activity pre evaluation is the shopper. Who is the target shopper and what do I want them to do?

Let’s illustrate this by imagining what White Horse are trying to do. This is fictitious – but hopefully helps expand on this concept.

Let’s assume that there are two types of shopper that White Horse is interested in. Those that have already planned to buy White Horse, and those that have not.

The perfect execution will work brilliantly for both groups. Anyone visiting the scotch whisky section in the store (and indeed anyone passing by) would immediately notice this brand. Sales wouldn’t go up among planners (although the extra facing might decrease the chances of out of stock) but would go up among non-planners.

But what about imperfect execution? Well, if there are fewer than three facings, or the bottles aren’t arranged ‘big horse to the front’ – what does the shopper see? The planned shopper will still, almost certainly see White Horse. Even if they only see a third of the horse, they’ll see the brand. The other sides of the box have a regular ‘single facing’ execution remember. Someone planning to by the brand should be able to find it. Putting this another way, imperfect execution will be no worse than if they had used a standard ‘single facing’ pack.

True, the impact on unplanned shoppers will be lower than the perfect execution, but unlikely to be lower than if they hadn’t changed the packaging. So the perfect execution is better than the imperfect one (no surprise there) but arguably there is little or no negative impact from the imperfect execution.

Activity pre evaluation must allow for imperfect execution

While this is fictitious, I hope you can see that even if it isn’t possible to get perfect execution in every store, there could still be a positive impact on sales. Killing ideas because they might not work perfectly doesn’t make sense. But pre evaluating activity on the assumption that everything will go to plan is daft too! There needs to be a forecast of the percentage of stores where the execution could be managed well (stores with merchandisers, for example) and consideration of the total cost. At that stage it would be possible to predict the additional profit created, and thus calculate an ROI. 

While perfect execution is desirable, it is virtually impossible to achieve at a sensible cost. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the idea is a waste. What it does mean is that shopper marketers must allow for imperfection in their execution when pre evaluating activities. If you want to know more about getting better returns from in-store investment, subscribe to this blog, and check out Shopper Marketing Experts a new online learning community.


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